Misconceptions of First Aid: The Dos and Don’ts

By Rana Kamaly


Feeling helpless in unfortunate situations during which we are eager to help but do not know how to, can be very upsetting. Recently, a relative of mine experienced a stroke and was not breathing, and while I did not know what to do besides calling an ambulance, someone started massaging her heart and limps and just like magic, she started breathing again.

Most of us have been through situations like this, whether dealing with an accident or simple burns. For me, my immediate reaction was to enroll myself in a basic first aid course, which I would recommend as these basics could help save a life.
From this course, I compiled the first aid dos and don’ts that people should be aware of.

Initial Action

If you do not know what you are dealing with, then call an ambulance first and make sure you tell them the following and wait for them to finish the call:

  • Exact address
  • Number of injuries
  • What exactly is happening
  • The cases you have and what has been done to help them

Also, make sure that the place you are in is safe for you and the injured person, even if you are at home. Never move them, especially if the accident was critical or if they are suspected to have broken bones.


Don’t place your hands in the mouth to pull out the object, because the jaw is one of the most powerful muscles in our body and if the choker panics, they can easily hurt you or themselves.

Do ask the person to cough hard, and if the object is still not out use the Heimlich maneuver, stand behind them with one leg between theirs and wrap your hands around their stomach or belly button and push back and up. Repeat this until the object is out. If there is no progress, then immediately take them to the hospital or call an amublance.

If the patient is a baby, then put them upside down on your thigh, face down, and hit them on the back.


Don’t try to rescue them unless you are trained to do so, instead try to pull them out with a rope or object. Stand firm or hold on to something as they might panic and pull you down.

Do keep them warm when they are out, and if they are not breathing, perform mouth-to-mouth resuscitation (with a tissue or cloth in between to avoid any contagious illness). If their heart is not beating, then begin CPR.


Breathing Difficulty

Do ask them if they take any medication when this happens, and if yes, help them reach it or bring it to them. Ask them to find a relaxed position and try to comfort them after calling an ambulance.

Heart Attack

Symptoms include a piercing pain in the chest and surrounding area, pain in one or both arms, shoulders and back, cold sweat or a feeling that they are about to die. If someone is experiencing just one of them, then call an ambulance immediately.

Do try and make them comfortable physically and mentally. If they take any medications for such cases, then help them take it or buy it. If not, then ask them the following: do you have allergy from aspirin? Do you take Antiplatelet drugs or have an ulcer? If the answer is negative to all three questions, then give them two to four children’s aspirins or one adult aspirin.


Don’t keep them seated with their head up, otherwise they might experience a seizure.

Do help them lie down on the floor or on a bed. If they have to be seated, make them put their head between their legs with their arms stretched out on both sides.


If the sugar level fluctuates, patients can experience a change in behavior (anxiety or anger), lack of concentration, headache, weakness and trembling and may faint.

Having a low sugar level is more dangerous, because an increase in sugar happens across days and hours, but a decrease can occur within minutes and can cause death.

Do provide them with 10 to 20 grams of glucose, if available, or anything that contains sugar. The symptoms should fade within 15 minutes, but if it does not, then give them another round.

Don’t provide them with anything if they are not conscious enough to swallow.


Secure the area, help them lie down and loosen any clothes around the neck until it passes. If they vomit, place their head sideways so that the airway remains unblocked, and of course, call an ambulance.


Don’t use toothpaste, flour, ice etc.

Remove all the jewelry just in case the burned area inflates, place the injury under tap water for around ten minutes and then cover it with Vaseline and gauze or cover it, without direct contact, with a clean tissue to avoid infection. If it is serious, call an ambulance.


Cuts and Injuries

For small cuts, maintain pressure on it after you clean it with water and soap, then add an anti-inflammatory such as Betadine before covering it.

If it is a major cut, then ask the patient to keep pressure on it using a piece of clean cloth or gauze, or wear medical gloves and do it for them to avoid any infections. If the bleeding won’t stop, then don’t replace the cloth, but rather add another one on top.

Nose bleed: help them bring their head forward, press the nasal holes and tell them to breathe from their mouth. If the bleeding goes on for over ten minutes, then take them to a hospital.

Dislocated bones: don’t try to reallocate the bone to its former form. Try to provide support to the broken part as is.

Spinal cord: call an ambulance and don’t move the person. Even if you are unsure of whether or not they have a spinal injury, do not take the risk. Try to keep them still without moving any body parts, especially the head.

Bee bites: try to remove the poison bag that the bee leaves behind with your nails or with a card from downwards to upwards, and don’t pressure the bag so it does not burst inside. Wash the area with water and soap, cover and place ice packs on the area then take them to the hospital.

Snake bites: call an ambulance first, then place the injured area somewhere under their heart so that the poison spreads slower. Wash with water and soap while covering it and appl pressure to help keep the infection from spreading. Keep it clean until the ambulance arrives.

General Tips

  • Always make sure that the area is secure.
  • Don’t make any direct contact with an injured person’s blood, unless you are wearing gloves.
  • Don’t attempt mouth-to-mouth resuscitation without a barrier.
  • Sometimes, it is better to not do anything than to make an incorrect move.
  • Do take a first aid course and encourage others to do the same.
  • Make sure to take a course before performing CPR or mouth-to-mouth, or at least watch a professional video.